04 October, 2013

Ralph, Ed and the Mail

The row between Ed Miliband and the Daily Mail over the paper's treatment of his late father Ralph continues, in part because, idiotically, the Mail on Sunday sent an undercover reporter to a family memorial service.

More of the madness comes from Ed Miliband, who seemed to take the view that the Mail had no right to discuss his father, a view seemingly shared by David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

The nub of it all is that the Mail said Miliband père hated Britain. One of the questions to be answered is: did he?

Ralph Miliband was a Marxist academic, a man who campaigned in the middle of the twentieth century for a Communist Government. What Miliband wanted for Britain - a country to which he came as a refugee - was no monarchy, no army (except as a political tool) and no independent elections. Miliband certainly hated many or most of the institutions which made up Britain. From those days, I still remember the air raid sirens being tested, and publicity from the Government as to what to do in the event of a Russian attack. And of course it was to Russia that Miliband looked. If he had achieved his aims, Britain would have been subservient to Russia in a Worldwide communist movement.

So I think it is fair to argue that Miliband hated Britain: I'm not sure it is right, that's all. I for example have spent twenty-odd years campaigning against a particular bit of Britain's constitution: that it s a member of the European Union. I want upheaval in this respect. Am I the same? Do I hate Britain?

Here we delve into the subjective: my wanting to leave the EU would not cause any loss of democracy (quite the reverse) and would not kill anybody. Ralph (his first name was Adolphe, by the way) Miliband would have damaged everything a democrat might love about Britain. That is the difference. He hated democracy and Britain was and is a democracy.

Another thing to be considered is Miliband's statement that the Daily Mail should look at its core values. It fills me with horror that a man who wishes to be Prime Minister should speak in this way: I certainly don't want the executive looking at the values of a free press: it would no longer be free. And this is in itself justification of the Mail's story: if Miliband had said 'they can print what they like' it would have been fine. Now, however, he archly asserts that we must consider how newspapers are run.

Lastly, it is the hypocrisy: it has become normal in British politics for the left to comment on David Cameron's privileged upbringing: he was the son of a rather rarified family, his father being a wealthy stockbroker. Miliband himself has made comments about the 'rich boy', clearly implying that Cameron's upbringing has influenced his world-view. It must be equal for Miliband. He grew up also in a rarified atmosphere, the son of a prominent Marxist, and we are entitled to scrutinise that and wonder whether it has influenced his own politics (he has several times said in eulogies for his father that he had been influenced by him).

So the Daily Mail must keep publishing this stuff, whether you like to read it or whether you agree with it or not.

That is what we call a free press.

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